Britain's Euroskeptic UKIP makes gains in local elections as voters punish main parties

The Associated Press

Nigel Farage, leader of Britain's United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) enjoys a pint of beer at a pub in South Benfleet, England, Friday, May 23, 2014. UKIP, Britain's anti-European party has made big gains in local elections, taking votes from both the governing Conservatives and main opposition Labour Party. It's a strong performance for the U.K. Independence Party, which advocates pulling Britain out of the EU and stopping the unfettered right to entry of European citizens. With about a third of results declared Friday from voting for 161 local authorities, UKIP had almost 100 seats, well over its predicted total of 80. Britons also voted Thursday in European Parliament elections. Those results will be announced Sunday along with tallies from 27 other EU countries. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

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LONDON (AP) — Britain's anti-European Union party made big gains in local elections Friday, taking votes from both the governing Conservatives and main opposition Labour Party and rattling rivals' nerves a year ahead of a British national election.

It's a strong performance for the U.K. Independence Party, which advocates pulling Britain out of the EU and stopping the unfettered right to entry of European citizens.

With three-quarters of results declared Friday from voting for more than 4,000 seats on 161 local authorities, UKIP had almost 140 seats, well over its predicted total of 80.

Labour won the largest share of seats, at least 1,400, gaining more than 230 and making gains particularly in London. Britain's cosmopolitan capital largely defied the UKIP surge.

Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives lost almost 200 seats, while government coalition partners the Liberal Democrats lost even more — about a third of the Lib Dem total.

The BBC said that if projected nationwide the result would give UKIP 17 percent of votes, compared to 31 percent for Labour and 29 percent for the Conservatives.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage said the result meant "we are serious players" in British politics. He said his party was confident it would elect its first lawmakers to Britain's parliament in next year's election.

Cameron acknowledged that UKIP's appeal to voters angry about austerity and worried about immigration had hit home.

"The economy is growing, we are creating jobs, but we have got to work harder and we have got to really deliver on issues that are frustrating people and frustrating me, like welfare reform and immigration and making sure people really benefit from this recovery," Cameron said.

Britons also voted Thursday in European Parliament elections. Polls suggest UKIP could gain the largest share of the vote in the race for Britain's 73 seats in the legislature. Those results will be announced Sunday along with tallies from 27 other EU countries.

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